Car Accident Attorneys in Columbia, SC
You thought it could never happen to you. But, now you may be lying in a hospital bed, unable to work, and with a totaled car. You might have injuries you never imagined.
Whether it is due to intoxication, distracted driving, or speeding, drivers sometimes take careless actions that can have serious consequences for other drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and more. When an auto accident destroys your life, turn to the attorneys with the experience and legal savvy to help obtain full and fair compensation from the at-fault party.
For years, Peake & Fowler has been helping car accident victims like you recover the money they need after a serious crash. Our South Carolina car crash attorneys are here to help you navigate the complex legal maze of personal injury claims. The insurance company is not on your side. We are.
Determining Fault in a Car Accident
The Police Report
Most insurance companies start by looking at the police report. It should contain information about where the accident occurred, what the police officer observed, and what both drivers say occurred.
There are several types of physical evidence that can also be helpful in crash investigations. If you provide pictures and video footage of the crash scene, your insurance adjuster will look at those. They may also look at the evidence provided by the other party. In addition to looking for damage to the vehicles, they will look for other evidence.
Drivers’ Testimony and Eyewitness Testimony
Insurance companies rely heavily on testimony from the drivers involved in the crash. However, this is exactly why you have to be careful about who you talk to and what you say. The other party’s insurance company may ask for your side of the story or even request a recorded statement.
By investigating the accident and consulting with experts when necessary, they can make a case that the other party’s insurance company cannot deny. The more proof they have backing up their claim, the more difficult it is for the insurance company to avoid paying out a fair settlement.
If you find out that you have to wait for an investigation before you can pursue compensation, don’t stress about it. It’s a normal part of the process that can actually make it easier to get the full and fair compensation you deserve.
Common Causes of Auto Accidents
- Distracted driving. It may come as little surprise to learn that younger drivers are the most likely to drive while distracted, with drivers age 15 to 19 being the number one group in this category.
- Speeding. The faster a car was going when it impacts another car, the more severe the crash. High-speed accidents can total cars and leave injury victims with life-threatening injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, internal bleeding, and more.
- Drunk driving. Getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks can be a fatal mistake. Intoxicated drivers have slower reaction times, blurred vision, and reduced concentration. Drunk or drugged drivers are known to cause multi-car accidents, hit pedestrians or bicyclists, and even kill other drivers.
- Drowsy driving. Driving while drowsy or fatigued is far more common than most people realize. In a AAA survey, more than 40% of respondents admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel, and more than 10% admitted to having done this during the past year. Other studies have shown similar numbers, all pointing to the fact that there are a disturbingly high number of motorists who are too tired or fatigued to be safely operating a vehicle.
- Aggressive/Reckless Driving. Driving aggressively or recklessly is another behavior that heightens the risk of a car crash. Excessive speeding is one example of this, and others include tailgating, weaving back and forth between lanes or over the center line, illegal and/or dangerous passing maneuvers, running stop signs and red lights, illegal turns, street racing, and many others.
- Third Parties. Third parties who are not directly involved are a contributing factor in some motor vehicle accidents. For example, some accidents occur because of poorly maintained roads with dangerous conditions such as potholes and large cracks in the pavement.
How Common are Distracted Driving Accidents?
Distracted driving is quickly becoming a national epidemic, and here are some of the most disturbing statistics that underscore this fact:
- About 9 people are killed each day and more than 1,000 individuals are injured in crashes involving distracted drivers;
- More than 80% of motorists admit to distracting behavior while driving;
- In one survey, 56% of respondents admit to using their cell phones while driving;
- Distracted driving is the direct cause of nearly 60% of all crashes that involve teen drivers;
- Teenage drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are most likely to drive while distracted;
- A teen driver with at least one additional passenger in the car is twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident as a teen driver with no passengers;
- Car crashes are now the number one killer among teens in the US;
- Drivers are 8 times more likely to be involved in a crash when reaching for an object, and three times more likely to crash while eating or drinking when they drive;
- Distracted driving costs our society approximately $40 billion each year.
Types of Car Accidents:
In recent decades, medians and other types of barriers have been installed in many urban and suburban roads to help prevent head-on auto wrecks. Despite the progress that has been made, countless undivided roads remain, particularly in rural areas.
Head-on crashes can occur because of either deliberate or inadvertent actions. Some of the most common causes include:
- Failed Passing Maneuvers: On an undivided two-lane road, it is tempting to pass a vehicle in front of you that is driving slower than you want to go. Impatience can lead to poor driving decisions, however, like trying to pass the vehicle in front of you while an oncoming car is approaching from the other direction.
- Speeding: Driving too fast, especially on an undivided, winding rural road can quickly become hazardous if you encounter an oncoming vehicle from around the bend. Speeding gives you less time to slow down and ensure that you are staying in your lane when you pass by the other car.
- Reckless Driving: Reckless driving (S.C. Code § 56-5-2920) is defined as driving in a manner that indicates “a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” In other words, the driver commits deliberate or unruly acts without any boundaries or limitations. In South Carolina, this is a misdemeanor offense that carries the possibility of up to 30 days in jail. But when a reckless driver’s actions cause severe injuries to others, the criminal penalties the driver is subject to provide very little comfort to injury victims and their families.
- Inclement Weather: Poor driving conditions can lead to head-on collisions. Some examples include high winds and heavy rain. Snow and ice are not as common in South Carolina, but occasionally, temperatures drop below 32 degrees while it is raining, creating icy road conditions.
- Entering the Wrong Direction on a Freeway Ramp: As mentioned earlier, head-on crashes can be caused by a motorist who enters a freeway ramp while driving in the wrong direction or drives the wrong way down a one-way street. This type of move is usually inadvertent and tends to occur at night when it is more difficult to see the road signs.
- Mechanical Defects/Failures: Vehicles are more complexly designed than ever before. The latest models have sophisticated computer systems designed to keep us safer. The problem with these complicated systems is that, when they break down while driving, it can become a hazardous situation for occupants of the vehicle and others they share the road with.
Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of auto accidents. A rear-end collisions rarely result in fatalities, but serious injuries are possible. One of the most common is known as whiplash. Whiplash occurs when the neck is jolted beyond its normal range of motion, resulting in the muscles and ligaments to become strained. Whiplash can occur even when a vehicle is struck at low to moderate speeds, and this condition can sometimes result in chronic or permanent disability. When occupants of the front vehicle are struck at higher speeds, more severe injuries can occur, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), broken bones, and many others.
Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), light trucks, and vans are popular family vehicles in South Carolina, but they pose a particular risk that many owners aren’t advised of before they leave the car dealership. Because of their higher profile and center of gravity, these vehicles have a greater chance of being involved in a rollover accident.
The inherent design defect in these types of vehicles makes them less stable on the road than a standard automobile. Because of this, even a normal maneuver, such as a quick lane change or swerving to avoid an object, could trigger a dangerous rollover accident.
What Causes Rollover Accidents?
A rollover accident occurs when a vehicle is flipped either onto its side or its roof during an accident. Just by their nature, these are serious accidents that cause a massive amount of property damage and some of the most serious injuries on the road. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) reports that 90% of rollover accidents are caused by “tripping,” which means that the vehicle slides sideways and the tires “trip” on something, causing the car to overturn.
What should you do if you are in a car accident in South Carolina?
There are some very simple steps to take after an accident:
- Call the police and 9-1-1.
- Do not admit any fault to the other driver or law enforcement.
- Go to the hospital for injury treatment, even if you feel fine in the moment.
- Call your insurance company and report the accident.
- Follow up with your doctors.
- Keep all medical records and bills.
Additional things to do after a car accident:
Don’t Say Too Much to the Other Driver
After you realize that you and everyone else in your car has survived, you’ll likely feel a huge surge of relief. This may cause you to say a little too much to the other driver—in particular, apologies or other statements that accept blame for the accident. The opposite can also happen. If you are angry and full of adrenaline after the crash, you could lash out at the other driver and damage your potential claim. Try to keep the conversation minimal until the police arrive.
Stay Off of Social Media
In this day and age, it’s tempting to share everything on social media. Remember, though, the other party’s insurance company will be watching you. Posting an update on the accident on your Facebook page may seem innocent enough, until a friend comments “Nice, time for a sweet insurance payout!!” You know they’re joking and respond with a laughing emoji. The insurance company is more than willing to use that as “proof” that you are going to use the accident to scam them out of extra money. On top of that, any posts you make about your activities or work may be used by the insurance company to show that you aren’t as injured as you claim.
Don’t Rush Through the Settlement Process
This is a big risk when the other party is clearly at fault. When one party is obviously to blame for the accident, their insurance company will move quickly to get the other party to settle before they realize the extent of their injuries. If you accept their first or second offer, you’ll likely be leaving a lot of money on the table. Even worse, it’s unlikely you’ll have enough to cover your medical bills and related expenses.
Do Not Pass on Medical Care
It’s very common for injured drivers to skip out on medical care, mostly because they don’t want to get hit with a massive bill after all is said and done. However, don’t underestimate the real dangers of car accidents. It’s likely that you are more injured than you know, and you’ll need proof of medical care to link your injuries to the accident. On top of that, some injuries require immediate treatment. Whether you go in an ambulance, drive yourself to the emergency room, or go to urgent care, make sure you get a full medical workup after your accident.
Do Not Handle Your Claim Alone
It’s tempting to handle your claim with the insurance company directly—especially once the insurance company tells you that you’ll need to give a cut of your settlement to the attorney who handles your case. However, don’t make a short-sighted decision. While part of your settlement does go to your attorney, your attorney is capable of negotiating a much higher settlement than you can negotiate on your own. They understand the complexity of personal injury cases, the challenges they’ll come up against with the insurance company, and everything the insurance company will do to try to drive down the value of your claim. Once the insurance company realizes they have to negotiate with your attorney, not with you, they are far more likely to negotiate in good faith.
South Carolina is a tort liability state, which means the not-at-fault person can pursue a claim against the at-fault party. South Carolina is also a comparative negligence state, which means you can be barred from collecting for the percentage you contributed to the accident.
What Types of Compensation are Available in an Accident Injury Case?
There are two general types of compensatory damages that you can pursue in an accident injury claim:
These are direct economic losses that apply specifically to the injured person and can be linked directly to the accident:
- Medical Costs: All expenses associated with treating your injury and your subsequent recovery; such as the cost of the ambulance, emergency room treatment, hospitalization, surgeries and other procedures, follow-up medical appointments, physical therapy and other types of rehabilitation, and in the case of a permanent and debilitating injury, the cost of ongoing medical care.
- Lost Earnings: Getting injured in an accident often requires you to miss some time from work. You should be reimbursed for all of your lost wages for the time in which you are unable to work because of your injury.
- Property Damage: Damage to your vehicle or any other property that occurred because of the accident.
These are intangible losses that generally happen to all accident victims that suffer moderate to severe injuries. Examples include:
- Pain-and-Suffering: The legal system allows you to seek damages for the pain and suffering you have to endure.
- Emotional Distress: There is also the anxiety, sleepless nights, and depression that is often associated with an injury like this. You should be able to recover compensation for this as well.
- Diminished Quality of Life: If the crash leaves you unable to participate in activities you once enjoyed, you can seek compensation for the decrease of quality of life that you have experienced.
- Disfigurement and Permanent Injury: If you suffer disfigurement, loss of limbs, loss of senses, permanent brain damage, and other permanent changes to your body, you can seek compensation for the ways in which these changes impact your life.
Also known as “exemplary damages”, punitive damages are awarded in more limited cases in which the actions of the party (or parties) responsible for the accident were willful, malicious, fraudulent, or grossly negligent. The intent of this award is to punish the wrongdoer and to help serve as a deterrent against similarly egregious actions in the future.
Speak with a hard-hitting auto accident lawyer in Columbia right away
Most people do not know their rights. They don’t know how to handle negotiations with an insurance company. They are not sure how to get every penny they deserve. That is where the Columbia car accident attorneys at Peake & Fowler come in. Our tenacious legal team is ready to fight for you. Call us today at 803-788-4370 or complete our contact form to arrange your no-cost, no-obligation initial consult.
We also handle car accident cases in St. Andrews.
Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A., is located in Columbia, SC and serves clients in and around Newberry, Lexington, Sumter, Allendale, Orangeburg, St. Matthews, Bishopville, Florence, Blythewood, State Park, Eastover, Columbia, Elgin, Irmo, Hopkins, Ridgeway, Lugoff, Ballentine, West Columbia, Kershaw, Camden, Dusty Bend, and Richland County, Lexington County, Calhoun County, Orangeburg County, Sumter County, Kershaw County, Newberry County, Fairfield County, Lee County, Clarendon County and Florence County.